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Eagle and Shield Weathervane
Artist unidentified

Location: Massachusetts, United States

Date: c. 1800

Materials: Cast bell metal

Dimensions: 36 × 43 1/2 × 4"

Credit: Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Francis S. Andrews

Accession Number: 1982.6.4

Photo credit: John Parnell

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Description

On June 20, 1782, the bald eagle became the national symbol of the newly established United States of America with the adoption of the Great Seal. The process of designing the seal had taken six years, and once it was ratified, the eagle and shield became one of the most popular images in American decorative arts. This early depiction of the American eagle retains characteristics associated with another bird used symbolically in early America, the mythological phoenix, which rises reborn from its own ashes. The phoenix often was portrayed on fire marks and other devices associated with firefighting. It presents a fiercer aspect than the bald eagle and has an extra curve to the neck.

The six-pointed stars on the shield are also indicative of an early date, as the motif had been replaced by five-pointed stars later in the nineteenth century. This weathervane is fashioned from heavy bell metal, and it has been speculated that it was cast and wrought either at the Boston foundry established by Paul Revere in 1787 or in Canton, sixteen miles south of Boston, where Revere eventually moved his operations. According to tradition, the weathervane originally was raised on top of the Old State House in Boston and later removed to the town hall in either Clinton or Spencer, Massachusetts, where it stayed until about 1925; neither location, however, has been verified.

Stacy C. Hollander, "Eagle and Shield Weathervane," in American Anthem: Masterworks from the American Folk Art Museum (New York: Harry N. Abrams in association with American Folk Art Museum, 2001), 303.


Eagle and Shield Weathervane
Date: c. 1800
Artist:
Dimensions: 36 × 43 1/2 × 4"
Materials: Cast bell metal
Credit Line: Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Francis S. Andrews
Place/Region: United States
Description: Large, very heavy silhouette vane in form of transitional phoenix/eagle with ferocious head and open beak, outspread flamelike wings and shield on breast with thirteen stripes and six-pointed stars; (p) R claw holds crossed arrows. Mounted on shaft of arrow and ball. Verticle rod passes through ring and causing separately applied to (P) L wing and ring on arrow, below. Arrowhead and ball soldered in two pieces either side of shaft and reinforced in back. Traces of gilding remain.
Accession Number: 1982.6.4
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